On May 1, 2013, Conservation Ontario launched the Healthy Hikes Challenge in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, David Suzuki Foundation, the Ontario Trails Council and others. The challenge invites Ontarians to spend time hiking in the province’s over 270 Conservation Areas and track their progress online for a chance to win great prizes. The goal of Healthy Hikes is to get Ontarians to visit and become active in Ontario’s Conservation Areas and to use this experience to increase their understanding about the many connections between health and the environment. Not only is hiking a great way to stay physically fit, but recent research also points to the mental health benefits of exposure to natural settings or “green spaces.” Being active in nature can lead to
- more energy and a greater sense of revitalization;
- less tension, confusion, anger, and depression; and
- better self-esteem, mood, attention and concentration.
Regular use of natural areas for physical activity can reduce the risk of mental health problems by half, and being active in natural settings even once a week might prove protective.
The Healthy Hikes campaign connects Ontarians with their local Conservation Areas and encourages them to walk or hike in nature and log their progress for points. Conservation Authorities and Healthy Hikes partners across the province will also be hosting events throughout the campaign, which will run from May until October 2013.
Learn more about the ways the environment boosts your health, and sign up to participate in the Healthy Hikes Challenge, by visiting www.healthyhikes.ca. For more information about the research demonstrating that green is good for your mental health, see “The Nurture of Nature: Natural Settings and Their Mental Health Benefits” on the Minding Our Bodies website.